Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Column: Giant Space Asteroids II - The Revenge!

Like most columnists, I started in this business for one reason and one reason only: to win the Nobel Prize for Column Writing. Then I discovered there was no Nobel Prize for Column Writing, so I decided that I actually started doing it to effect positive change in society. Thus far that’s gone about as well as the Nobel Prize thing, as evidenced by the lack of traction in my campaign to get us all jetpacks.

Until last week, that is. That’s when my column on giant space asteroids elicited a sudden flurry of asteroid-related activity. Not among the asteroids, which are notoriously stubborn and can’t read, but among certain people who, like myself, do not want to be crushed and incinerated by them, not necessarily in that order.

Granted, not all of the activity was useful. For instance, NBC News (motto: “Wait, what?”) ran a story about how the 1998 asteroid movie “Armageddon” was, as it turns out, unrealistic. Fourteen years well spent, I-Team!

Actually, they were reporting on a study out of the University of Leicester, where one 22-year-old master’s student said of the film, “After watching it back, I found myself being more skeptical.” He also surmised that Hollywood might be guilty of “falsification of the science to make movies more interesting.” In response, the University of Leicester changed its name and left town in the middle of the night.

But on other fronts the news was more positive, especially among the one federal agency that might actually be equipped to do something about the problem of deadly giant space asteroids: the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration.

Wait, I meant to say NASA. And as it turns out, NASA’s Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO, and I swear I did not make that up) thinks that we actually have a pretty good chance against an oncoming asteroid – if, that is, we’re willing to spend $50 million on an asteroid spotting system. Just to put that in perspective, I should mention:
  1. “Rush Hour 3” cost $140 million.
  2. See No. 1.
If we were to pony up and start actively searching for oncoming asteroids, that would no doubt come as good news to the Gaiashield Group, one of the few organized bodies out there working to keep us all from being crushed, incinerated etc. They also happen to have what may be the Best Website Ever (, in that it features:
  1. The motto “The Sky Is Falling Now!” over a picture of a Tyrannosaurus Rex running from falling meteors.
  2. See No. 1.
The Gaiashield people, incidentally, are not thrilled with how President Obama has handled the giant space asteroid crisis so far. They even have a personal letter to him on their website, which reads, in part, “The Next Large Asteroid on its way to strike Earth is closing at A Million Miles A Day. Time is simply not on our side here … Tic Toc!” Say what you will about the Gaiashield Group, you have to admit the “Tic Toc!” was a nice touch.

But at least Obama seems to have a general idea that we should probably be doing something about giant space asteroids. According to Dale Brownfield of Gaiashield, who wrote me after reading my column, “I’m sure Romney still needs to be taken to school on this.” Most likely a private preparatory school that frowns upon blacks, gays and giant space asteroids.

Still, that brings me back to my point of last week: If Romney wants to become president, it seems to me all he has to do is come up with the $50 million to fund NASA’s asteroid spotting project. He could probably do that entirely from money he could find today around his house, under the couch cushions and on top of the car under the dog. I bet he’d even have plenty left over to spend on other projects.

I recommend jetpacks.


Unknown said...

Hello Peter! I like jetpacks! Dislike asteroids, neutral on long walks on the beach (unless they are accompanied by occasional jetpack excursions). I know it's been forever since I visited you - hope this finds you and yours well. Cheers for a joyous holiday season!

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